Andy Murray is still on course to win the Aegon Championships for a fourth time but the Scot had to survive a barrage of big serving from Gilles Müller before securing his place in the semi-finals.
Murray beat the 32-year-old from Luxembourg 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 56 minutes to secure a meeting with the winner of the concluding quarter-final between John Isner and Viktor Troicki.
For the best part of two sets Murray could barely get a racket on Müller’s booming serves, which zipped off the grass at lightning speed. However, the Scot played an excellent tie-break at the end of the second set and won the decider after striking an early blow by breaking in the opening game.
“It is always tough when you are behind and I wasn’t getting many chances on his serve,” Murray said afterwards. “It was a bit frustrating in the second set – I was holding my service games well but wasn’t able to get the break through. But definitely towards the end I started to relax more and return better and play some really good tennis at the end. Hopefully I can carry that forward till tomorrow.”
Müller, who is coached by the Briton Jamie Delgado, has been in the form of his life this year. Since the end of 2013 he has climbed more than 300 places in the world rankings to his present position of 48th. He has always had a huge serve and in a week when the big servers have run riot on the quick courts in west London he posed a major threat.
Murray, who had his left thigh strapped, could ill afford to play a loose game in such circumstances, but he did so when serving at 1-2 in the first set and was duly punished. A Luxembourger went on to save two break points in the next game. They were the only opportunities Murray had to break in the first two sets.
While Murray had to save a break point in the sixth game, Müller was serving beautifully. In the first set he won 17 of the 18 points when his first serve found the court. Murray generally looked secure on his own serve, too, but the damage had been done.
Both men continued to serve with power and precision in the second set, in which there were no break points. Murray, however, immediately set the pace in the tie-break, going 2-0 up with a superb running forehand pass down the line. Müller, serving at 2-4, missed a smash off a fine Murray lob and the Scot went on to win the tie-break 7-2.
Having levelled the match, Murray promptly took control of the deciding set. Müller went 15-40 down on his serve in the opening game, saved a first break point when Murray netted a forehand but could do little about the second. Stepping into the court, the world No 3 hit a winning forehand return down the line. From that point onwards Murray just needed to hold serve. In the third game Müller, to his credit, saved three more break points, but he was struggling to make inroads into Murray’s service games. When Murray served for the match at 5-4 an unreturned serve gave him victory on his first match point.
The turning point had been Murray’s superb passing shot on the second point of the tie-break. “I managed to read the return and charged over to the other side and hit a good passing shot,” he said. “But they don’t always go in, so it was a bit lucky as well. I started to read the serve a little bit better at the end of that tie-break. That’s when the match changed a little bit.”
Gilles Simon will face Kevin Anderson in the other semi-final. Simon, playing in his first quarter-final here, beat Milos Raonic 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Raonic struck 23 aces, taking his tournament total to 76 in three matches, but Simon converted both his break points in the match, while the Canadian could convert only one out of five.
Anderson’s 18 aces helped the South African to beat Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-6, 7-5. Anderson, who fell in the quarter-finals on his last two visits to Queen’s, in 2012 and 2014, won his only previous match against Simon at Indian Wells two years ago.
Roger Federer stayed on course to retain his title in Halle in Germany when he beat Florian Mayer 6-0, 7-6, taking just 19 minutes to win the first set.
However, the world No 2 faces a tall order in the semi-finals against Ivo Karlovic, the giant Croatian, who hit 45 aces – a record for a three-set match – in beating Tomas Berdych, the third seed, 7-5, 6-7, 6-3.Reuse content